Today has gone well and I’m back to old happy self. It’s really nice to ride again without the pressure of having to get out of a country before my visa expires. This really hit home when I stopped for my first lunch at a rest stop. Just as I finished filling myself up with a range of goodies (tomato/cucumber sandwich, nectarine, apple, dried fruit and nuts, cookies and oatmeal cake), a man came over and invited me to join him at his van. My automatic reaction was to point first at my watch and then down the road, indicating that I needed to get going, just as I did countless times in Uzbekistan. As I did it today though, I realised I wasn’t in any kind of hurry today. When the man insisted I join him, I relaxed and did so. He was a stout guy in his sixties, travelling alone in a van that was setup for long distance travel. I learned that his name is Ruslan. Set between a series of well organised boxes was a gas stove heating up some water. He tried to have a conversation for a while, but quietened down when it was clear I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. The rest of our time was spent in comfortable silence. The hot water was used for two bowls of noodles and tea. He had a really cool thermos that consisted of two canisters in the one unit, one for tea and one for coffee. Each canister had a pump system attached so instead of pouring tea out, you simply dispensed it into a cup by pumping the lid of the one you want. I had to work hard to squeeze in the noodles, and a slice of bread I was given, on top of what I’d already eaten. Hanging out with Ruslan was worth the squeeze, however, as it really sank in that I once again have all the time I need to take it easy and say yes to all the experiences that travels brings. After we’d finished our snack and had packed up, Ruslan insisted that I put my bike on the roof of his van and let him drive me to Aktau. He repeated the word ‘security’ as he did so. It took a fair bit of pleading and gesturing before he got the message that I actually really want to be out here cycling.
While I’d enjoyed a cruisy ride up to this point, the afternoon became a bit of a slog as the wind turned into a westerly, giving me a cross-headwind. I didn’t mind much though, knowing that I was in no hurry. I have tonnes of food with me, so my only worry needs to be finding a place each day where I can stock up on water. I began looking for a place to camp around 5.45pm, but it quickly became clear I’d struggle to hide myself anywhere. The landscape is incredibly flat and treeless and it had been a long time since I’d seen tracks leading off the main road. Fortunately, the ground is hard and vegetation covering the ground non-threatening to tyres, so I was able to leave the road without needing a track. I pushed my bike about 800m away from the road. I can still see traffic moving past but it is unlikely that people using the road will be able to guess that the blob they see in the middle of the steppe is a vulnerable tourist with a bicycle.
|Distance ridden today||109.58km|
|Average cycling speed||18.2kph|
|Total distance ridden||22,682km|